For the first time in nearly 10 seasons as Heat coach, Erik Spoelstra wasn’t on the sideline when his team played Sunday.
And for good reason: He’s about to become a father for the first time.
Spoelstra conducted a film session with the team on Saturday in Indianapolis and then flew home to Miami on Saturday afternoon when he received word that his wife’s water broke.
They were in the hospital Sunday, awaiting the birth of what the couple knows will be a boy.
Assistant coach Dan Craig is coaching the team in Spoelstra’s absence on Sunday against the Pacers.
Craig led the Heat’s G-League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, to a championship in 2015-16, his only season as the team’s head coach, and then re-joined Spoelstra’s staff as an assistant last season.
Craig has been with the Heat since 2003, serving various roles including assistant coach/video coordinator, assistant coach/player development, and assistant coach/director of player development.
“I don’t think it will be much different,” he said before Sunday’s game. “All of the assistants were echoing Spo’s voice and his message. We walked through a lot of stuff that he showed on film and then also this morning, just the takeaways from yesterday and Spo’s message to the team.”
Craig said the G-League experience could help Sunday because “you know you’ve been there. You’ve done it. You have to rewind two years. You have the confidence you can step in and lead for Spo.”
Craig, who missed a game a month ago because of the birth of a child, said: “Spo is right where he needs to be. He’s there for his wife Nikki. Obviously, it’s a really exciting time for them. The team is excited, the staff is excited. I was there just a month ago for my son Will. From a perspective standpoint, this is great, exciting for Spo. The team is obviously understanding. We’re just anxiously awaiting some news.”
Nikki Spoelstra announced the couple’s pregnancy on Nov. 1, her husband’s 47th birthday, with an Instagram post of a photo of the couple holding a sonogram with the caption, “Happy birthday to my best friend . . . Daddy Spo!”
Later that day, Spoelstra said: “Yeah, we’re really excited about it. Everybody in this building has known for a while, and our friends and family have known. So I figured we’d let all of you know.”
It’s also the first child for Nikki Spoelstra, 30, who’s a former Miami Heat dancer. The couple married on July 22, 2016.
Spoelstra and his wife recently moved into a six-bedroom, eight-bathroom home in Coral Gables.
Spoelstra is expected to be back on the bench when the Heat plays visiting Cleveland at 8 p.m. Tuesday on TNT.